james carefully examined the smooth bed of stones near the shore of the lake before finding a nice flat one. he skipped it over the surface of the water, watching with pleasure as it bounced three or four times.
"nice," i said.
(more) "you gotta forget about that chick, man. she's only bad news."
"you don't get it"
"what, like you're gonna waltz in there when she's at the altar and your eyes catch from across the chapel and she forgets he's got everything?"
"it's not like that. she's missing something-"
"don't be ridiculous."
i took a drag from my cigarette and skipped a stone of my own. the scenario was almost too delicious: a couple of guys looking straight ahead into miles of water and cracking eggs of wisdom from the corners of their mouths. we joked about this and that until we heard the girls coming around the trees where the shore bent inwards. they looked marvelous in the setting sun.
we built a fire out of driftwood and sat on a log watching the flames. what the others were thinking, i had no idea. james couldn't have been happy with his girlfriend. i saw the way his eyes became blank when she talked about whether a fern or ficus would be more fitting for their living room. despite the velvety touch of karen's little fingers in my palm, i too was blank. we watched the gnarled wood slowly feed the flames as they licked the air and it seemed as if we were burning too.
soon, she would be somewhere in suburban connecticut and the way she would turn to me, with the contents of her heart sizzling on the stove, and ask "do you want them soft or crispy?" would be just another memory to write about.(less)
James pulled into the church parking lot. "How do you know it's going to work?" he asked, putting the gear in park.
"If you were a guy like Frank would you let some asshole diddle your wife?" Lyle got out of the(more) car and opened the back door, grabbing his plastic encased tux. James followed suit.
"I suppose you're right, but don't you feel the least bit of remorse that he'll probably kill her as well?" They took their bags from the trunk and went inside.
"You're a cold mother-fucker."
"Jesus, James we're in God's house now- don't curse."
A stern-looking lady in a black dress greeted them. "You're late."
Lyle held his arms out and motioned around at the empty foyer. "The wedding doesn't start for another hour and a half. How can we be late?"
"The wedding party was supposed to be here, dressed and ready, half an hour ago. The photographer is taking pictures now." She looked at Lyle disapprovingly. "Why are you so sweaty?"
"He ate a breakfast burrito," James piped in. "Jalapenos don't agree with him."
She rolled her eyes. "Follow me. I'll show you to the men's changing room."
"Where is the women's?" Lyle snickered. James punched his upper arm and the woman left them to get ready. "Stodgy, old bitch. Isn't it bad luck to wear black at a wedding?"
"What color is your tux, stupid?"
"I meant for women to wear black."
They dressed in silence. James combed his hair and looked back at Lyle's reflection. He was trying his best to mop up all the sweat with his T-shirt. "You going to be alright?"
"You know it's probably for the best. She doesn't like dogs. You don't want a woman who doesn't like dogs."
That goddamn wedding was the worst thing I ever had to do.
Everything was perfect of course, the bride wouldn't have had it any other way. The venue was set to absolute specifications, the band was glorious, the minister knew exactly what he was doing, every bridesmaid looking he(more)r best, every groomsman in his proper place.
And there I was right next to him, smiling, holding his ring.
When I heard the news I was devastated. Of course I put on a happy face, gave my congratulations, and then felt like a piece of my heart died.
He asked me to be his best man a week later. Throughout the months leading up I thought, I hoped, I fantasized that maybe they would break up, maybe they wouldn't go through with it, maybe there's still a chance he can be mine.
And then I was giving him his ring.
I would never get to touch him, never get to kiss his lips, never whisper "I love you" in his ear. He would never know how I feel about him. He has his perfect wife now, and all I can do is keep that fake smile on my face and try my best not to let the tears fall.